Alicia A. Garza

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS. South Padre Island is a resort community on Park Road 100 at the southernmost tip of Padre Island in Cameron County. It is flanked on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico, Brazos Santiago Pass, and the Laguna Madre. Brownsville is eighteen miles southwest. The history of the southern part of Padre Island dates from Spanish exploration in the sixteenth century. From the late nineteenth century into the 1950s the only way to reach the area was by ferry. The island had become a resort during the mid-nineteenth century but was not developed until the 1950s after the completion of the Queen Isabella Causeway, now the Queen Isabella State Fishing Pier. A $2.2 million swing bridge connecting Port Isabel to South Padre Island was completed in February 1954. The small prosperity the area gained was partly stifled in 1967 by Hurricane Beulah, which destroyed much of Port Isabel, the gateway to the island, as well as the town of South Padre Island. In 1978 South Padre Island had a population estimated at 314. Ten years later it had an estimated 1,012 residents and 111 businesses. Its main industry is tourism; peak seasons are late winter, spring, and summer. The community, in which many of the businesses and private homes are owned by foreigners, caters to an international clientele and, during Spring Break, to college students from the entire United States. Most of the businesses are related to the tourist trade-hotels, restaurants, condominiums, and souvenir shops. In 1990 South Padre Island had a population of 1,677 and 109 businesses. The population was 2,422 with 243 businesses in 2000.


Florence Johnson Scott, Spanish Land Grants in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939). J. Lee and Lillian J. Stambaugh, The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1954). James Heaven Thompson, A Nineteenth Century History of Cameron County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1965). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Port Isabel, South Padre Island).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Alicia A. Garza, "SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX," accessed February 21, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 20, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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